Pieces of Why by K.L. Going

piecesofwhyPieces of Why
by K. L. Going
Penguin September 8, 2015
Ages: 10 and up

E-ARC provided by NetGalley

I do love me some K.L. Going; been a fan of her writing since I first The Liberation of Gabriel King and this new title does not disappoint.

The Sum: Tia is a little girl with a big voice! She sings in a local childrens gospel choir with her best friend Keisha, lives with her mother in a less-than-stellar neighborhood of New Orleans, and has a lot of questions about her father who is in prison and she hasn’t seen since she was four years old. Everyone around Tia seems to know more about her father’s history than she does, but when a shooting breaks the calm outside choir practice one evening, killing a baby in the crossfire, Tia decides it’s time to find out what her mother is keeping from her and the whole truth about her father’s violent past. The shooting has shattered Tia’s faith in humanity, leaving her unable to sing and unable to voice her emotions about everything that is going on around her.

The Good: Well-written, compelling characterizations, timely issues all come together to make for a wonderful middle grade read. Tia is full of life, full of questions, full of thoughts that are hard to put into words, and for a long time singing was her only outlet. Vivid, sensual descriptions of a post-Katrina New Orleans are rich with detail, and I love that the storm is only a sidenote to this story, but the imagery of the neighborhoods is real and visceral. The relationship between Tia, who is white, and Keisha, who is black, transcends race, and yet it is everywhere, woven throughout the story, rippling the surface of many of the interactions between characters.

The Less-Good: Not much to say here on my one and only reading of the story, but I did feel like the eventual meeting of the father in the prison visiting room felt a little too pat, and a little too happy endingish, but really it was a minor moment in a story about Tia’s growth and the development of her relationship with her mother.

The Overall: I really liked this one, it’ll find a wide audience at my school. It’s the second book this month that I’ve read about a youngster with a parent in prison, the other being Nora Baskin’s Ruby On the Outside, and that one took only one booktalk to make it a hot commodity around these parts. I can’t wait to share this one with students and teachers.

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